For many businesses, building rounds of funding is the decisive step between a great business idea and a company that operates for years into the future. Whether you are approaching your funding through crowd-sourcing or through a Shark Tank style event sponsored by your local Chamber of Commerce, knowing how to ask for funding is a business skill that you will use for years to come.

These 4 key points will help you build an investment pitch worth a million dollars.

Focus on the future

It can be tempting to start your pitch off with a long story about what inspired you to create your company, especially if it feels like that story is the key to understanding why your project will offer value to your target audience. Resist the temptation.

To convince anyone to invest in your company, you need to explain what the investment will do for them. To do this, you need to highlight the problem that your project is solving, and then discuss how you will let your potential audience know about the solution. Your story may eventually be a part of this pitch, but all in all, you’re better off saving the long explanations for your interviews with media elites as they build stories about how you’ve managed to become so successful.

Now, if your story touches on your ability to connect with the niche in question, tell that piece of it. For example, someone with a disability has a more in depth understanding of what it is like to live with that disability, and may have access to communities where living with disabilities is a topic of conversation. “As an autistic person, I know better than many how difficult it can be to keep track of the details of life,” for example.

Give investors what they need

There are a number of things that a potential investor looks at before they decide to go in with a funding round. This includes understanding the market potential of the idea, the level of traction that the business has received, the background of the founding team and the potential returns. A recent blog post on SecureDocs highlights the five things every billion dollar pitch deck has in common. They are the origin story, visual charts & graphs, pain points in the market, revenue plan and growth rates and finally closing arguments on the required investments.

Practice, but don’t memorize

Before going to a big conference or event, it’s tempting to memorize your pitch word for word. Again, the temptation is understandable. If you feel nervous, knowing exactly what to say is reassuring. But if you practice too much, you run the risk of making your speech sound rote and rehearsed, which isn’t compelling to listen to.

Instead of memorizing your pitch word for word, remember your key talking points and what all the best pitch decks have in common. Is there a statistic that you want to mention? A quip that engages listeners? A story or experience that quickly encapsulates the problem that your niche is facing? Memorize these things, and use them to engage your audience before moving into a more fluid pitch.

Acknowledge the competition

There is no product on the market that doesn’t have some sort of direct or indirect competition. A new social media network is going to try and draw attention away from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. A board game is competing with other board games on the market, as well as other things that people do to entertain themselves in group.

It can feel like your product is completely unique, but this isn’t true. Even if you are addressing a problem that no other company appears to have created a solution for, you will be working on convincing people that there even is a problem.

Saying that your product has competition doesn’t make you look like a bad investment. It says that you have a deep, working knowledge of the market, and are prepared to position your product properly.

Individualize

When you are pitching investors, especially at an event, something you can do to differentiate yourself from the unwashed masses is to individualize your pitches. Mention something about the investor’s company, or their recent projects, to show them that you know who they are specifically. For example, if you know that Angel Investors has been shopping around for a social media network focused on women, but hasn’t made any offers, you might say: “I’ve heard that Angel Investors is looking for social media that engages with women.

My project should be of particular interest to you because we have a very specific plan for how we will manage the kind of harassment that women often face online.”

The benefit of individualizing your pitch should be obvious. It shows that you have done your research and are aware of what this investor in specific might be looking for. These are great traits for a business partner.

You can’t ever guarantee that your business idea will eventually be a unicorn, but you can make your pitch sound like a million bucks. What advice would you offer to someone who is heading off to their first – or most important – pitch event?